Finally trains between Spain and Portugal again?
Since 2019 there have been no long-distance rail connections between Spain and Portugal. The infrastructure and trains on the Portuguese side are in a state of total disrepair. Now Portugal's Prime Minister António Costa has presented the National Railway Plan, an extensive investment programme for rail transport. Commentators criticise wrong priorities and a lack of cooperation between Madrid and Lisbon and point to similar woes in France.
Unworthy of a close relationship
El País calls on Spain to show more political will:
“The links with Spain are vital for Portugal. ... Geographically, Portugal is as much a hostage to Spain as Spain is a hostage to France. If the Spanish don't support Portuguese investment in rail transport, the country will become an island dependent on planes and cars. ... Spain is the preferred destination of the Portuguese, and Portugal replaced France as the Spaniards' favourite destination two years ago. Neither tourists nor business travellers nor expats currently have an alternative to flying or driving. ... This is not only a European anomaly, it also underlines the need to take urgent action to resolve Portugal's current disconnection.”
Madrid leaving Lisbon in the lurch
O Diabo accuses Spain of blocking the planned high-speed line between Lisbon and Madrid:
“Amidst the total darkness in which the socialist government likes to keep Portugal, another Iberian summit has just taken place, apparently talking only about gas and deciding nothing about the future of the railways. ... The Lisbon-Madrid connection is to run via the new Evora-Caia line, which is currently under construction, single-track and with Iberian gauge. But what the Spaniards are doing on the other side of the border is in contrast to this. So the news is that there will be no high-speed link to Madrid because the Spanish don't want to move forward.”
Don't rejoice too soon
Journalist Francisco Sarsfield Cabral doubts Lisbon's will to reform. On Rádio Renascença he comments:
“In the past, the Socialists have rightly criticised overinvestment in motorways and underinvestment in rail transport. While most European countries have invested heavily in rail transport in recent decades, Portugal has let much of its track and rolling stock fall into disrepair. The Socialists have been in government for seven years and we have yet to see them put their rail reform plans into action. The National Rail Plan threatens to become another excuse to postpone the modernisation of the train system.”
Better upkeep instead of dazzling visions!
On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron also announced investments in rail transport. He plans to expand the suburban railway networks in ten major cities to make the overstretched public transport system more efficient. Le Figaro has major doubts:
“The project is all the more disconcerting because the French railway company SNCF has been closing stations, shutting down branch lines and cancelling trains for years to cut costs. Wouldn't it make more sense and be cheaper to maintain, strengthen and expand what already exists? And to combat metropolisation by revitalising medium-sized cities?”